Re: [OxLUG] MythTV / Media centre setup advice needed

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Author: Mr. Demeanour
To: Oxfordshire Linux User Group Discussion List
Subject: Re: [OxLUG] MythTV / Media centre setup advice needed
David North wrote:
> Should I:
> (a) attempt to use an internal arial and a freeview twin-tuner card (if
> so, any recommendations?)
> (b) attempt to extend the Sky cables lying in the lounge about 12 feet
> round the corner (under doors and blu-tacked to the skirting board) to
> the kitchen (nearest sensible server location) and use a satelite tuner
> card to get freesat - if so, what cable/connectors should I use to do this?
> (c) Just try and build one nearly-silent box to sit in the lounge and do
> everything?
> (d) Something else I haven't considered.


I have a Freeview-based MythTV system. It has some problems, but I can't
imagine giving it up and reverting to any sensibly-priced commercial
solution (I gather that good, reliable commercial systems can be bought
for many thousands of pounds).

a) I doubt you'll get adequate Freeview performance from an indoor

I don't use a twin-tuner card; I have one Hauppauge Nova PCI card,
and a Avermedia USB external adaptor. I have a spare USB adaptor that
seems to create instability in my system, which is why it's spare.

b) I have a Freesat card that I'm not using (I had an old Sky dish in my
loft, and bought the card in the hope of getting HD; but hanging the
dish out of the bedroom window didn't seem to result in a useable
signal). You'd be welcome to experiment with the card, either with a
view to getting your own once you've proved it works, or perhaps
buying mine off me. I'd be willing to help, and of course I'd be very
interested in the results. I have all the cabling that would be
needed, since I have had it all hooked-up. I also have a signal
meter/attenuator and some plugs.

c) I use a fanless, diskless Via Epia Mini-ITX homebrew as a front-end.
It netboots off the backend (which lives in a cupboard). I tried
using Flash as boot media for the frontend; it worked fine, but was
more complicated than using Netboot (the IDE adaptor for the Flash
drive didn't support DMA, as I discovered quite some time after
buying it).

Motherboard: £125
DVI daughterboard: £25
Pico PSU: ~£80
Slimline combo: ~£25
Memory: whatever 0.5GB costs these days.
Case: a sheet of black perspex, a saw and some glue.

It's the size and shape of a small hi-fi amplifier; but my crap
fabrication skills show, and it looks pretty rough.

-> £300 *may* be an overestimate for a silent front-end.

This kit is two years old now; I imagine better performance can now
be achieved without sacrificing complete silence. Most importantly,
it must now be possible to achieve HD using just the motherboard
graphics adaptor on a modern, fanless Mini-ITX.

I strongly recommend separating the front- and back-ends. The backend
is likely to get warm, because Freeview cards generate a lot of heat.
Also, the backend has to do the transcoding, so a fast CPU will be
good. By using separate front and back, you can go for a completely
silent frontend without compromising performance at the backend.

Don't settle for "nearly silent"; the whining of even a quiet 2.5"
disk-drive can be pretty annoying when the system is on but not in
use, and you want complete quiet. Complete silence is perfectly
achievable (but note that I haven't yet proved that *my* frontend is

My backend is a 3GHz P4 Shuttle. There's a 750GB SATA RAID5 array on
the network, dedicated to storing recorded programmes. This seems to
be sufficient for my viewing habits. But if you're planning to rip a
large DVD library, you'll maybe need more than that. Most of my DVDs
remain unripped.

Well, that's my experience; you'd be welcome to come and take a look if
you want - email me.